New Music

Brian Nabors wins national Rapido! composition contest

by Mark Gresham | 21 JAN 2019

Composer Brian Nabors

Composer Brian Nabors (photo from

Cincinnati-based composer Brian Raphael Nabors won the Rapido! National Composition Contest on Sunday, created and hosted by the Atlanta Chamber Players and the Antinori Foundation. Nabors was one of five composers to make it to the national finals, which took place yesterday afternoon at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Walter Hill Auditorium in Atlanta. The three judges for the competition were Atlanta Symphony Orchestra music director Robert Spano, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon and composer Michael Gandolfi, chairman of the composition department at New England Conservatory of Music.

Rapido! is so named because its primary criteria: composers who enter must write a four to six minute work in the span of only 14 days, not knowing either the competition’s theme or the three instruments for which they are to write the music until the beginning of that two-week period. A handful of composers are selected from entries to compete in regional competition. The winners of those regional contests then proceed as finalists in the national competition.

Brian Nabors

Brian Nabors (photo from

The other four Rapido! finalists competing on Sunday were Jason Gerraughty (Redlands, CA), Mason Johnston (Atlanta, GA), Ben Robichhaux (Elizabeth City, NC) and Eric Segerstrom (Delmar, NY). All finalists’ entries were performed in front of the audience and judges by flutist Todd Skitch, clarinetist Alcides Rodriguez and cellist Brad Ritchie, three of the Atlanta Chamber Players who are all also members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

As winner of the National Grand Prize, Nabors receives a $5000 first prize commission to expand his competition entry, “3 Dances,” to a 15-minute work that will be premiered by Atlanta Chamber Players and three other ensembles across the nation, two weeks of residency at the Hambidge Center for the Arts in Rabun Gap, Georgia, and the opportunity to write a new work that will be premiered by Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Nabors is currently the 2018-19 Composer-in-Residence with the Castle of Our Skins organization, and from March 2 through 9 will also serve as the EarShot composer-in-residence for the Detroit Symphony and its Classical Roots Festival. Nabors is completing doctoral studies at the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati where he also earned his Master of Music degree in Composition. His Bachelor of Music degree is from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. ■

Rapido! finalists and judges Top: Rapido! finalists Ben Robichhaux, Eric Segerstrom, Brian Nabors, Mason Johnston and Jason Gerraughty. Bottom: Rapido! judges Robert Spano, Jennifer Higdon and Michael Gandolfi. (photo credit: Chris Helton)

Admiral Launch Duo proves sax and harp surprisingly amiable companions

by Mark Gresham | 10 JAN 2019

Admiral Launch Duo: saxophonist Jonathan Hulting-Cohen and harpist Jennifer R. Ellis
Admiral Launch Duo: saxophonist Jonathan Hulting-Cohen and harpist Jennifer R. Ellis

When saxophonist Jonathan Hulting-Cohen and harpist Jennifer R. Ellis first performed together, they were struck by the varied and beautiful blending of timbres that came from this instrumental odd couple, and decided it would make a great combination as an ongoing duo.

Named for the admiral butterfly, their Admiral Launch Duo first took flight at the Fresh Inc Festival in 2013, then began building their reputation, appearing at venues nationwide from San Francisco’s Center for New Music to New York City’s Spectrum.

“Launch,” the duo’s debut CD, was released December 1 on the Albany label (TROY1752), featuring a smorgasbord of pieces by nine composers: Yusef Lateef, Angélica Negrón, Ida Gotkovsky, Marcel Tournier, Stephen Rush, Natalie Moller, Patrick O’Malley, Christine Delphine Hedden, and Jasper Sussman. Its 18 tracks range from pieces commissioned by the Duo to a pair of notable transcriptions of French works: Ida Gotkovsky’s “Eolienne,” originally written for flute and harp, arranged by the composer, and Marcel Tournier’s “La lettre du jardinier,” a 1912 work originally for voice and harp, recorded here in the duo’s own arrangement. Six are world premiere recordings.

One of the tracks was posted to YouTube by Albany Records for free public perusal: “Whirlwind” which composer Stephen Rush describes as a spun-out “Funk-Indian Toccata plus a slow cadenza.” (Listen via the video embedded below.)

As thoroughly attractive as it is unlikely, the combination of sax and harp offers up a sonic experience that is as delectable as it is original, engagingly rendered on this disc by Ellis and Hulting-Cohen. It entices the listener to want to hear them perform live. ■

Fractured Atlas LogoThis post was made possible in part by funds from Fractured Atlas. Donations supporting the Fractured Atlas “Mark Gresham” project may be made online by clicking the linked logo on the right. Fractured Atlas is a 501(c)(3) public charity; all donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Music of Cody Brookshire featured in Eyedrum’s fourth Composer’s Series concert

by Mark Gresham | 28 DEC 2016

Composer Cody Brookshire in festive seasonal attire.

Composer Cody Brookshire in festive seasonal attire.

On Friday, December 23, as many people wee rushing to finish last-minute holiday shopping runs, Eyedrum Arts & Music Gallery hosted a concert of music by composer Cody Brookshire for the fourth installment of its recently established Composer’s Concert Series.

In advance of Brookshire’s music was a set by electric guitarists Justin Tolan and Se’nam Palmer, who traded a few looping, effects-laden solo numbers back and forth then played a final duo, after which came a brief intermission.

Brookshire introduced his part of the program, decked out in casual attire for the occasion in a red t-shirt and Santa Claus hat replete with leopard-spotted fur lining – appropriate given both the event date and Eyedrum’s signature hyper-informal environment.

First up among Brookshire’s six featured compositions was Kindlemusik, a momentum-driven piece for marimba duo, performed by Ethan Strickland and Olivia Kieffer (who also curates the Composer’s Series). Electronic music on stereophonic fixed media followed: three selections from Harmonic Meditations: I. Siddhartha, III. We Could Live Forever Tonight and V. Wasting All My Precious Time.

Although similar in style and character to many contemporary compositions for unaccompanied flute, Brookshire’s Whispers, Secrets and Codes is nonetheless a respectable contribution to the genre, ably performed in this instance by flutist Matthieu Clavé.

Trumpeter Victoria Bethel performs From Afar, Drawing Near.

Trumpeter Victoria Bethel performs “From Afar, Drawing Near.”

Most interesting among the evening’s offerings was From Afar, Drawing Near, for trumpet and electronics, performed by trumpeter Victoria Bethel. Spatial effects involving the performer turning left and right while playing, and the extended use of a Harmon mute in the beginning, gave this piece a menacing character, like a siren in the midst of an air-raid warning-inspired texture, including the thunderous sounds of drones. Electronic elements were also affected by the GPS location of the composer’s cell phone.

One more electronic work was next on tap: META11UR6Y, based on manipulation of pre-recorded screaming “metal riffs” on electric guitars. On the one hand, it mentally connected back with Tolan and Palmer’s opening set, but also took the the listener out into a conceptually fragmented world of great sonic contrasts, with fortissimo clips often coming in bursts to interrupt vague background textures.

The concert closed with Triple Helix, another work for multiple marimbas – in this case a trio (as the title implies). It was performed by Lineage Percussion – Wesley Sumpter, Lauren Floyd and Trevor Barroero. The performers used headphones and a click track to coordinate the piece, which Brookshire described succinctly as “a web of multiple tempos.”

A bit of good news for concerts like this one, Eyedrum itself appears to have cleaned up its act in the literal sense over past months. The space far, far less junk-and-trash riddled than experienced on previous visits, though it is still lacking in decent, sufficient lighting by which performers can both see and be seen. Even so, things are clearly in a process of improving for the small performance space at 88 Forsyth Street. •

Fractured Atlas LogoThis post was made possible in part by funds from Fractured Atlas. Donations supporting the Fractured Atlas “Mark Gresham” project may be made online by clicking the linked logo on the right. Fractured Atlas is a 501(c)(3) public charity; all donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.